Here’s the rule among Democratic pols and liberal commentators. When a Republican finally gets around to doing something you’ve urged him to do for years, you continue to beat the bejesus out of him anyway.
That’s what’s happening now that Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has fired Michael Gableman and ended his needless, bogus “investigation” into the 2020 election.
“This news comes months too late for the people of Wisconsin,” said Assembly Minority Leader Greta Neubauer in a statement. “Speaker Vos and Michael Gableman’s sham investigation should have never happened. For 14 months, Gableman was empowered to spread disinformation about our elections – Republican leadership needs to take responsibility for the damage they’ve done to our democracy and make clear that the 2020 election was fair and secure. The investigation was a farce from the beginning and did nothing but waste taxpayer dollars, demonize our local clerks and election officials, and further sow misinformation and doubt in our democratic systems.
“I’m relieved the Office of the Special Counsel is closed, but this action from Speaker Vos today is far too little, far too late.”
For the record, I agree with everything in Neubauer’s statement. It was a sham. Even Republican state Sen. Kathy Bernier called it just that. It was a tremendous waste of taxpayer money. It did needlessly undermine Wisconsinite’s confidence in their elections. And it was clear that Gableman was a buffoon from the start.
And I would add that Vos only acted after Gableman crossed him by endorsing his opponent. All this I stipulate for the record. And yet, Vos still didn’t have to do what he did or go as far as he did in his comments. Vos called Gableman an “embarrassment”, he shut down Gableman’s office within days of winning his primary, and he said that his survival proves that Republicans don’t have to be, “a lapdog to whatever Trump wants.”
Compare those actions and statements to what other Republican leaders have done. House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy slammed Trump both publicly and privately right after the Insurrection only to travel to Mar a Lago a few weeks later to kiss Trump’s ring. Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell was also strongly critical of Trump in the hours following January 6th only to back down a few days later. Sen. Ted Cruz was incensed that candidate Trump accused his father of having something to do the with the JFK assassination and that he criticized his wife only to ultimately support Trump. Sen. Lindsey Graham said that he was, “done with Trump.” only to reemerge as one of his strongest defenders.
My point is that the list of Republican cowards who seem to lack an ounce of self-respect is long.
But Vos, if he sticks to this line, could become one of the few Republican office holders who both lines up against Trump and remains in power. Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger have courageously stood up to Trump, but they are not long for this political world. Kinzinger didn’t seek reelection and Cheney will get crushed in her primary tomorrow. I wouldn’t feel too bad for either of them. They’ll write books, go on the lecture circuit, become talking heads. They’ll go from once obscure House members to very well compensated national media stars. But they will be out of power.
At the same time, there has been no indication that Vos is in any danger of losing his speakership. He’ll join the likes of Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Mitt Romney (R-Utah) in being Republican critics of Trump who remain in office. But in Vos’ case he won’t be an outsider in his own caucus; he’ll remain the second most powerful man in Wisconsin.
And here’s where I part with my liberal friends: this could be something to celebrate. Robin Vos may be among the leaders in showing his party that there is life after Trump, that they can stand up to him and remain standing. And maybe — given his opposition to considering the hair-brained notion of rescinding our electoral votes or handing over our elections to partisan Republicans — Vos will be a leader in reasserting the old Republican Party. You know, the one that was conservative in a classic sense and that respected the rule of law.
This summer’s primaries have, as a rule, strengthened Trump’s stranglehold over his party. But there are glimmers of hope here and there. Robin Vos may be one of them.